A child’s autism diagnosis effects every member of the family in different ways.
Parents/caregivers must now place their primary focus on helping their child with ASD, which may put stress on their marriage, other children, work, finances, and personal relationships and responsibilities. Parents now have to shift much of their resources of time and money towards providing treatment and interventions for their child, to the exclusion of other priorities. The need of a child with ASD complicates family relationships, especially with siblings. However, parents can help their family by informing their other children about autism and the complications it introduces, understanding the challenges siblings face and helping them cope, and involving members of the extended family to create a network of help and understanding.
Parents of a child with Autism have to bear a lot of stress owing to complicated therapy schedules, home treatments, and juggling job responsibilities and family commitments. There is also financial stress coming from expensive therapies and treatments.
Such stress may affect a family’s life in various adverse ways.
Parents of a child with Autism need to meet the needs of their children, as well as address the needs of their family. Coping with the stresses involved in being parents to a child with Autism can strengthen families and marriages, but this requires a great support system and a lot of hard work.
Below are several ways families with children of ASD or autism are affected.
Emotional impact: Autism brings with it a lot of emotional ups and downs for the family members, which start prior to the diagnosis and continue indefinitely. A study in the journal Paediatrics states that mothers of children with ASD often rated their status of mental health as fair or poor. Compared with the general population, their stress level was much higher. Besides having higher stress levels, parents of children with Autism may experience the following: embarrassment over their child’s behaviour in public, feeling socially isolated, despair because of the disorder’s incurable nature, resentment of their child and guilt due to the resentment.
Marital impact: According to the study in the Journal of Family Psychology, parents of a child with Autism had a 9.7 percent chance of getting divorced than did their peers. Marital stressors can include the following: parents often accept their child’s autism diagnosis at different times and in different ways, which causes conflict, spending time together becomes difficult because of the numerous commitments and inconsistent schedules, it’s often challenging to find child care for autistic children, financial stress may cause problems between spouses.
Sibling impact: A child with autism also influences his or her neuro-typical siblings. The siblings undergo many of the stresses faced by the other family members. Moreover, parents may not be able to provide them with full support, as they are overwhelmed meeting the needs and demands of their child with Autism. In families having children with ASD as well as typically developing siblings, a more intense form of sibling rivalry can be seen. The child with Autism needs more attention and time and may cause siblings to feel left out and resentful.
Financial impact: Families with children with Autism often face a huge financial burden. Expenses for autism treatment and therapies are not covered by most private health insurers, and they are quite expensive. The co-pays parents incur for medications and office visits often lead to a massive financial debt.